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Former California congressman TJ Cox charged with money laundering and fraud

NBC News 8/16/2022 Mirna Alsharif
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A former California congressman was charged with multiple fraud schemes, the Justice Department announced on Tuesday.

Terrence John "TJ" Cox, 59, is charged with 15 counts of wire fraud, 11 counts of money laundering, one count of financial institution fraud, and one count of campaign contribution fraud, according to the DOJ.

Cox was elected as a Democrat to serve as U.S. representative for California’s 21st congressional district — a district in the San Joaquin Valley that includes portions of Bakersfield — in 2018, but lost his reelection in 2020.

He could face a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for wire fraud and money laundering if convicted. Additionally, he’s facing a maximum 30 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine for wire fraud and five years and a $250,000 fine for campaign contribution fraud.

Cox did not immediately respond to an NBC News request for comment.

According to court documents, Cox allegedly "created unauthorized off-the-books bank accounts and diverted client and company money into those accounts through false representations, pretenses and promises."

From 2013 to 2018, he allegedly received over $1.7 million in diverted payments from clients, investments and company loans.

Cox also allegedly "perpetrated a scheme to fund and reimburse family members and associates for donations to his campaign," while he was a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2018 election. He "arranged for over $25,000 in illegal straw or conduit donations to his campaign in 2017," the DOJ says.

The former congressman obtained a $1.5 million construction loan to develop "Granite Park" in Fresno by falsely claiming one of the companies affiliated with him could guarantee the loan. This resulted in the loan going into default, which caused "a loss of more than $1.28 million."

He also allegedly received mortgage loan funds by submitting false representations to the lender, including fake bank statements and false claims that he intended to live in the property as his primary residence, the DOJ said. But Cox allegedly bought the property in order to rent it to someone else.

The FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation team are continuing to investigate this case.

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